Before Alessandro Del Piero, I had two idols in soccer.
The first, was the legendary Roberto Baggio, who became the object of my affection circa Summer 1994. Yeah, what a coincidence I know. But at that age (I was 12) the only soccer I was following was the national team.
During that time, there was another good lad (well, two actually) playing on that Azzurri squad that caught my eye. Franco Baresi retired a little too soon before I became really involved with soccer (fanatically I mean).
But the second person I started idolizing, and this being that I started playing footy as a side-back myself, was someone that to this day I consider the greatest defender that ever lived. He embodied class, elegance, efficiency, and in my eyes practically invented the on-the-ball slide tackle from behind. He was a master at those, clean challenges that dispossessed the opponent without making a foul. The poor lad that tumbled to the ground after getting the ball stolen from him, could only turn around and see our hero gallopping away, knowing full well that if he even dared complain asking for a foul, the referee would book him on principle alone.
Thank you for making us dream one more year Paolino. They say “le bandiere” are gone in soccer, that calcio is becoming a mercenary’s game. Every year, you, ADP, and Francesco Totti keep proving the naysayers wrong. And for someone to stay devoted as long as you did to one single club, and to keep playing even at 40 years of age, you deserve one big fu**ing KUDOS in bold capital letters.
If anyone has seen the Maldini Il Film you know at the end his peers, coaches, and friends all reminisce about the greatest defender to ever walk the Earth, this is your chance to do the same. Milan fan, Paolo fan, hell even Inter fans you are welcome to share your memories at firstname.lastname@example.org and you too will get your time in the sun to honor Maldini.